Can you imagine a small design agency in London inspiring the provincial government of Styria/Austria to put more focus on Service Science in its new business strategy for 2020? No? Then meet Uscreates.
Confession of an engineer.
I have to admit, it was a long journey before the topic of Service Science (and the disciplines of Service Design and Service Engineering) got awareness in Styria. We have a classical car manufacturing and steel industry oriented economy with a very high percentage of SMEs, though this is now shifting towards the service sector. In recognition of that shift (tertiarization shift of economy), five years ago our IT and IT Business Informatics department at the University of Applied Sciences CAMPUS 02 started to change research focus from classical e-Business to Service Science and Service Engineering.
That was a bold step. At this time nearly every funding programme in Austria focused on e-Business/e-Commerce/e-“whatever”. But we were convinced that more focus on the service aspect in our “IT-based service” research would enable us to make better software and service systems, and get more customer satisfaction. So we started with Service Science and Service Engineering lectures and projects. But we really had no clear idea where the journey would lead us.
In our attempt to get more insight into the different disciplines of Service Science we contacted two different communities: Service Engineering (Fraunhofer IAO in Stuttgart/Germany) and Service Design. For an engineer all things ending with “–eering” sound familiar and nice, and so we stuck with the Service Engineering community for a long time. Then I met the Service Design community which is totally different from any engineering world one can imagine (or what at least an engineer could imagine…).
Uscreates co-founders Mary Rose Cook and Zoe Stanton attended a Service Design conference led by SDN in Madeira. Though I couldn’t attend their session due to delivering my own, I was inspired by the responses from their workshop attendees. So I invited Mary for a guest lecture in Graz, a move which helped us in changing the way Styrian companies perceive Service Science.
Clash of cultures
So, how does a London service design/behavioral change agency influence the opinion of Styrian companies about Service Sciences, and manage to inspire the policy of a provincial government so far from London?
To understand this one must know that our students (our audience) are part-time and are all professionals who are working, primarily in IT business companies. They are either in a management position in their companies or, due to their academic education, are on the way to this level. Over the last three years, Mary Rose Cook and Alan Boyles from Uscreates have given “disruptive” 😉 workshops and worked with our audience in hands-on service design projects to encourage “thinking outside of the box”.
Seeing engineers meeting designers is always fun: it starts as a clash of cultures but always ends in friendly co-design (and nice post work beer conversations). But most important of all, Mary helped us in our efforts as the generation of “Service Science ambassadors” in Styrian companies.
Inspiration of policy makers.
What started in 2006 with lectures and a change of research strategy, continued in 2009 with Service Design workshops, and came to an impressive result in 2012. The Styrian provincial government regularly sets a business strategy plan for the province. To do so it activates the Styrian scientific council which has to carry out research identifying topics which are latent in companies and research organisations. So our department was interviewed regarding the change of paradigm in the economy towards the service sector.
Based on the many positive responses of our audience (students) and backed up by the response of the CEOs of our students’ companies, we were able to propose a stronger strategic focus on Service Science.
And that is what the Styrian province government is doing! In the business strategy plan 2020 there is the demand for a stronger focus on education and consulting activities in the field of Service Science. 
And that’s how a small service design/behavioral change agency from London influenced policy across borders.
 Land Steiermark – Amt der Steiermärkischen Landesregierung, Ressort für Wirtschaft, Europa und Kultur: Wirtschaftsstrategie | Steiermark 2020. (PDF), Online: http://www.wirtschaft.steiermark.at/cms/dokumente/10430090_12858597/002b1fe7/WiSt%20Steiermark%202020_Wachstum%20durch%20Innovation.pdf (Abruf 22.3.2012)